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Florida’s Health Care Transparency Database Takes Shape

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Florida is making a database of medical procedures and the average price patients should expect to pay for them.

Members of the House Health and Human Services Committee got a preview of what it may look like Tuesday.

TheAgency for Health Care Administration is paying a company called the Health Care Cost Institute $6.1 million over five years to build the online transparency tool, but they won’t be working from scratch.  

According to AHCA’s Molly McKistry, consumers should expect the website to be online by July.

“This process will be evolutionary to some degree,” she said. “So, what we come out with initially is probably not where we’re going to be 12 to 18 months later in terms of the maturity of the product. That’s something we’re that I think that we’re going to get a lot of feedback on.”

The plan is to meld the HCCI’s national average-price database, calledGuroo, with an existing state website called theFlorida Health Finder, which lists quality ratings and general pricing information about hospitals, nursing homes, and other providers.

Health Finder only includes a provider’s price tag, but not what an actual patient could expect to pay after insurance.

McKistry told lawmakers the new site will initially offer a similarly broad look at prices for procedures, but eventually consumers should be able to winnow their searches down to specific cities or hospitals.

“There will basically be waves of plans we’re adding to this data as we move forward. It’s really in January of 2018 that we’ll be able to get down to that facility-level pricing,” she said.

Last year, emergency physicians criticized the health transparency law, saying it was written with only one contractor in mind — HCCI.Dr. Steven Kailes, president of the Florida College of Emergency Physicians, told WJCT in April of last year that HCCI’s insurer roots made their pricing tool unfair to providers.

“The problem is when you have something that’s industry controlled, then you can expect industry manipulation of it,” he said.

Kailes advocated for the use of another transparency database, FAIR Health, which he said would’ve included more data from more sources.

FAIR Health did bid for the state contract, but lost out to HCCI.

Gov. Rick Scottsparked a public debate over so called “hospital price-gouging” last year, convening a special committee and going on a statewide listening tour. Scott’s campaign culminated in the filing of the law mandating the creation of the price transparency website. It also allows patients to receive itemized bills before they go under the knife.

The governor and former hospital executive is planning to build on last year’s successes in the upcoming legislative session.

“This session, I want to fight to make the healthcare system fair for families and ensure health care works for patients and not for hospitals’ bottom lines,” said Scott in anews release. “I will champion legislation that will repeal the outdated certificate of need program, repeal the cap on trauma centers and ensure transparent and upfront pricing for patients.”

Scott also wrote he expectsSen. Rob Bradley,R-Orange Park, to file legislation repealing the certificate of need program, which regulates how many healthcare facilities can exist in a specific area. Bradley filed the senate version of what eventually became last year’s health care transparency law.

Reporter Ryan Benk can be reached at, 904-358-6319 or on Twitter @RyanMichaelBenk.

Ryan Benk is a former WJCT News reporter who joined the station in 2015 after working as a news researcher and reporter for NPR affiliate WFSU in Tallahassee.